Rocket moon crash LIVE – Out-of-control 5,800mph booster set to hit on FRIDAY but Elon Musk’s SpaceX not responsible

World News

AN OUT-OF-CONTROL rocket part the size of a school bus will smash into the Moon on Friday.

According to astronomers, a rocket booster will hit the lunar surface on March 4 after spending nearly eight years tumbling through space.

It will be the first time a manmade object has crashed into another space body without being aimed there.

It was first spotted by Bill Gray, who writes the popular Project Pluto software to track near-Earth objects.

He reported that the junk was a SpaceX Falcon 9 upper stage launched from Florida in February 2015.

However, Bill later retracted his claim and said the rocket part most likely belonged to China. China has since denied the accusation.

Read our rocket moon crash live blog for the latest news and updates…

  • Amanda Castro

    Rocket body's origin

    The rocket part's origin is unknown, according to CNN.

    Bill Gray, manager of Project Pluto, originally mistook it for the SpaceX Falcon rocket stage that launched the US Deep Space Climate Observatory, or DSCOVR, in 2015.

    He subsequently admitted that he was mistaken and that it was most likely from a 2014 Chinese lunar mission, which NASA concurred with.

    The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on the other hand, disputed that the booster was from the Chang'e-5 moon mission, claiming that the rocket had burnt upon reentry to Earth's atmosphere.

  • Amanda Castro

    Rocket body company, continued

    Bill Gray, the manager of Project Pluto, which provides both commercial and free astronomy software to amateur and professional astronomers, is one of the persons who has made the China link, per Space.com.

    "There really is no good reason at this point to think the object is anything other than the Chang'e 5-T1 booster," Gray told Inside Outer Space last month.

    "Anybody claiming otherwise has a pretty large hill of evidence to overcome."

  • Amanda Castro

    What company does the rocket body belong to?

    The top stage of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that launched the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) in 2015 was first considered to be the rocket body.

    The object, however, is now linked to China's Long March 3C rocket, which launched China's Chang'e 5-T1 mission in 2014, according to Space.com.

    Chang'e 5-T1 circled beyond the moon and returned to Earth to test the Chang'e 5 lunar sample return mission's atmospheric re-entry capabilities in 2020.

    On behalf of the Luxembourg-based business LuxSpace, Chang'e 5-T1 carried a secondary payload of scientific equipment in the upper stage of the Long March rocket.

  • Amanda Castro

    SpaceX achievements

    SpaceX's accomplishments include:

    • The first privately funded liquid-propellant rocket to reach Earth orbit
    • The first private company to successfully launch, orbit, and recover a spacecraft
    • The first private company to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station
    • The first vertical take-off and vertical propulsive landing for an orbital rocket
    • The first reuse of an orbital rocket
    • The first private company to send astronauts to orbit and to the International Space Station
    • The Falcon 9 series of rockets has been flown over a hundred times by SpaceX.

    When was SpaceX founded?

    Space Exploration Technologies Corp., known widely as SpaceX, is a Hawthorne, California-based aerospace manufacturer, space transportation services provider, and communications company.

    Elon Musk founded SpaceX in 2002 with the purpose of lowering space transportation costs so that Mars may be colonized.

    The Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles, as well as various rocket engines, the Cargo Dragon, crew spacecraft, and Starlink communications satellites, are all manufactured by SpaceX.

    Who is Elon Musk?

    Born June 28, 1971, Elon Musk is a business mogul and entrepreneur.

    He is the co-founder of Neuralink and OpenAI, as well as the founder, CEO, and Chief Engineer of SpaceX.

    Musk is also an early-stage investor, CEO, and Product Architect of Tesla, Inc., and the creator of The Boring Company.

    He is the world's wealthiest individual, according to both the Bloomberg Billionaires Index and the Forbes real-time billionaires list, with an estimated net worth of roughly $224billion as of February 2022.

    How far away is the Moon?

    The average distance between Earth and the Moon is about 238,855 miles miles (384,400 kilometers), according to NASA.

    That means it is about 30 Earths away.

    Biocontamination possible

    There is a possibility of biocontamination at the crash site, according to David Rothery, a professor of planetary geosciences at The Open University in the United Kingdom.

    This is because rocket parts aren't sterile when launched.

    "Most microbes will have died but maybe not all. They're probably not going to reproduce but it's a very small risk," he told CNN.

    Crater won't be the first on the Moon

    If the rocket booster creates a crater on the Moon from the impact, it won't be the only crater on the Moon, CNN noted.

    The Moon has no protective atmosphere, so impact craters occur naturally when it's hit by objects like asteroids regularly.

    • Josie Rhodes Cook

      NASA prepares for 'unique event'

      NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter will monitor the moon's exosphere for any changes as a result of the impact of the rocket booster to the moon, Space.com reported.

      LRO "will not be in a position to observe the impact as it happens. However, the mission team is assessing if observations can be made to any changes to the lunar environment associated with the impact and later identify the crater formed by the impact," NASA officials said in a statement given to Inside Outer Space and cited by Space.com

      "This unique event presents an exciting research opportunity," the officials added.

      "Following the impact, the mission can use its cameras to identify the impact site, comparing older images to images taken after the impact. The search for the impact crater will be challenging and might take weeks to months."

    • Josie Rhodes Cook

      Collision won't be 'observable'

      "If it were observable — which, sadly, it won't be — you would see a big flash, and dust and disintegrated rocket bits and pebbles and boulders thrown out, some of it for hundreds of kilometers," Bill Gray told CNN of the rocket booster and its imminent collision with the Moon.

      Gray was the first to spot the path of the rocket booster and writes the popular Project Pluto software to track near-Earth objects.

    • Josie Rhodes Cook

      Craft may hit near crater

      The rocket booster may hit specifically near a crater called Hertzsprung, according to Forbes.

      It's on the far side of the Moon, so any impact won't be visible from Earth.

    • Josie Rhodes Cook

      Exact time of collision

      The rocket booster will likely hit the Moon at 12:25:58 Universal Time on March 4, 2022, Forbes reported.

      The four-tonne rocket part will probably hit the Moon’s surface at a speed of about 5,700 mph.

    • Josie Rhodes Cook

      European Space Agency comments

      The European Space Agency commented on the upcoming collision of the rocket booster and the Moon's surface.

      "This still-evolving finding underscores the need for enhanced space tracking, and greater data sharing between spacecraft operators, launch providers, and the astronomy and space surveillance communities," the agency wrote.

    • Josie Rhodes Cook

      Did SpaceX respond?

      The SpaceX Twitter account doesn't show any sort of recent response to the accusations that the rocket booster belonged to the company.

      In fact, the rocket part most likely belonged to China, not Elon Musk's company.

      China has since denied the accusation.

    • Josie Rhodes Cook

      Has space junk hit the Moon before?

      As part of its LCROSS mission, in 2009 Nasa deliberately smashed a rocket booster into the Moon in hopes of learning something from the debris it left behind.

      "In essence, this is a 'free' LCROSS… except we probably won't see the impact," Bill Gray, who writes the popular Project Pluto software to track near-Earth objects, wrote in January.

    • Josie Rhodes Cook

      Impact won't be visible

      The rocket part is still expected to hit the Moon on March 4, where it will leave a crater about 65 feet in diameter on the surface but unfortunately, it won't be possible to see the impact live as the tumbling rocket part is expected to hit the Moon's far side – the part that faces away from Earth.

      Instead, astronomers will rely on images taken by satellites including Nasa's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter to view what happens after the collision.

    • Josie Rhodes Cook

      Gray advocates for 'simple steps'

      What the confusion over the wayward rocket part shows is that there should be better tracking of deep space junk, Bill Gray, who writes the Project Pluto software to track near-Earth objects, argued.

      "Many more spacecraft are now going into high orbits, and some of them will be taking crews to the Moon,” Gray said.

      "Such junk will no longer be merely an annoyance to a small group of astronomers."

      "A few fairly simple steps would help quite a bit."

    • Josie Rhodes Cook

      Does the rocket belong to China?

      Last week, China said that the rocket part is NOT theirs.

      Bill Gray, who writes the popular Project Pluto software to track near-Earth objects, however, still thinks it's an old rocket part from a lunar mission dating back to 2014.

      His claims have been backed up by Nasa and other experts.

      They believe it's from China’s Chang’e 5-T1 mission, which was used to test technology for bringing samples back from the Moon.

    • Josie Rhodes Cook

      China's denial

      "According to China’s monitoring, the upper stage of the Chang’e-5 mission rocket has fallen through the Earth’s atmosphere in a safe manner and burnt up completely,” Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said of the mystery object on course to hit the Moon.

      However, experts noticed that China referred to the Chang’e-5 mission, not the similarly named Chang’e 5-T1 mission at the heart of it.

    • Josie Rhodes Cook

      Who predicted the collision, continued

      "Back in 2015, I (mis)identified this object as 2015-007B, the second stage of the DSCOVR spacecraft," Gray wrote on February 12.

      "We now have good evidence that it is actually 2014-065B, the booster for the Chang'e 5-T1 lunar mission."

    • Josie Rhodes Cook

      Who predicted the collision?

      In January, space trackers calculated that a piece of manmade debris was on course to hit the Moon and it was first spotted by Bill Gray, who writes the popular Project Pluto software to track near-Earth objects.

      He reported that the junk was a SpaceX Falcon 9 upper stage launched from Florida in February 2015.

      It was on a mission to deploy an Earth observation satellite called DSCOVR for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

      However, Gray later retracted his claim and said the rocket part most likely belonged to China, and China has since denied the accusation.

    • Josie Rhodes Cook

      'Intrinsic uncertainty'

      Professor Jonathan McDowell from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics told BBC News he agrees with Gray's re-assessment that the rocket part most likely belonged to China instead.

      He said there is lots of "intrinsic uncertainty" in identifying space debris and errors in identification can occur.

      "We rely on a small handful of volunteers who do it on their own time," he explained to the BBC.

      "So there is limited scope for cross-checking."

    • Josie Rhodes Cook

      What is the rocket booster?

      The object is probably part of a rocket that launched a small Chinese spacecraft, called Chang’e 5-T1, towards the Moon in 2014.

      Bill Gray, who writes the popular Project Pluto software to track near-Earth objects, originally reported that the junk was a SpaceX Falcon 9 upper stage launched from Florida in February 2015.

      However, Bill later retracted his claim and said the rocket part most likely belonged to China instead.

      China has since denied the accusation.

    • Josie Rhodes Cook

      Impact on the Moon

      The collision of the rocket booster and the Moon is expected to produce a cloud of debris and leave behind a small crater.

      However, no serious damage is expected to occur.

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